Quick thinking and ingenuity can be an individual’s best friends when faced with a life-or-death situation. While some folks, like the U.S. Navy Seals, are trained in techniques for escaping those perilous moments, civilians often panic and lose their ability to think clearly and rationally.
This almost happened to German tourist Arne Murke, who was sailing off the coast of New Zealand with his brother when a life-or-death fiasco struck. The two men were sailing in Tolaga Bay when suddenly the mainstay loosened.
The 40-foot boom came unattached, and it swung and struck Murke right in the head. Before he knew what was happening, he was overboard and swimming for his life.
Chaos erupted on the boat. Murke recalled to the New Zealand Herald how his brother tried to get him back on board but the waves were 10 feet high and the current was too strong.
Murke was quickly swept too far away from the yacht to even retrieve the life preserver his brother had flung to him. That’s when the imperiled 30-year-old father remembered a maneuver performed by the U.S. Navy Seals which saved his life.
Murke told the Herald that he took his jeans off and tied knots at the ankles. After inflating the “bags” by pulling the jeans across the top of the water, he had an improvised life preserver.
He added that thinking about his infant daughter, who was at home in the Philippines with his partner, helped him stay strong. “I was underwater,” he recalled, “and I just thought, ‘do it for your daughter.’ I saw it (the Navy Seal’s trick) many years ago and thought, if I ever go overboard without a life jacket, I’m going to do that.”
According to a Navy Seals video available for viewing on YouTube, almost anyone can perform this maneuver if they are stranded in water. The video instructs that you first get your pants off and then tie the legs together at the ankles with a solid, strong knot.
Inflate the waist and legs by swooping the legs quickly above your head and plunge the waist underwater, grabbing it closed. Business Insider also shows the video and has step-by-step written instructions. The improvised life jacket looks rather donut-shaped in the video as it surrounds you between your head and shoulders once you’ve tucked your head in the “circle.”
When it’s around your shoulders, you can lay back and tread water until help arrives. The three steps can be repeated as often as is necessary if air begins to leak.
Murke was in the water for over three hours before being spotted by the rescue helicopter that he had feared wouldn’t arrive. After he first saw the helicopter pass him by, it was another 20 minutes before it came back, saw him, and lowered the rope.
Footage of Murke being lifted from the water has been posted to the coast guard’s social media account. One of the team members was almost astonished that Murke survived and wrote on their Facebook page: “He is so incredibly lucky to be alive.” Murke, for his part, is grateful for the rescue team that he says “…did an excellent job and I’m very thankful.”
Surprisingly, perhaps, Murke told the press that his near-death experience won’t stop him from working on boats. He and his brother were in the process of taking the yacht from Auckland to Brazil for a client when the accident occurred. Because of Murke’s quick thinking – and thanks to the U.S. Navy, who had no clue how much their video clip would help this young tourist – Murke lived to amaze everyone with his story.